Pretty much ignored sexual harassment allegations lodged in May against Gil Cisneros, the Democrat running for the congressional seat of the retiring Representative Ed Royce (R-Brea), have reemerged in a campaign hit ad produced by a Republican Super PAC linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan.
However, the source of the original accusation was a Democrat. Activist and documentary filmmaker Melissa Fazli was in the middle of an unsuccessful primary election campaign for the Assembly seat held by Phillip Chen (R-Diamond Bar) when she claims she had a disturbing encounter with Cisneros at February’s California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego.
She alleges that Cisneros, who is married and a multi-millionaire thanks to California lottery winnings, appeared intoxicated during a conversation in an elevator about campaign contributions that ended with him asking, “Should we go back to your room?”
Then, in a follow-up telephone call where Fazli again sought a donation, Cisneros is said to have asked, “what are you going to do for me?”
On May 3, Fazli sent out a press release detailing her allegations, which was followed a day later by a statement from Cisneros accusing her of being a “surrogate” for Andy Thornburn, another Democrat with deep pockets seeking the same congressional seat. Fazli was accused of spreading “false allegations” that reporters researched and discounted because her story “does not add up.”
But Fazli was not done as she next shared her story via Periscope and Facebook Live on May 17. You can still watch it on YouTube:
About Cisneros’ supposed what-can-you-do-for-me line, Fazli concedes at one point, “Now this can be interpreted two ways. Either he wants me to be his spy or he wants me to have sex with him. After the encounter at the elevator in San Diego, I thought he wanted to have sex with me in exchange for a $4,400 donation. Either way he wanted pay for play; a [quid] pro quo.”
After Cisneros finished second in the primary to Republican Young Kim, meaning both advanced to the general election in November, that seemed to be the end of the Fazli story. But now comes this from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) Super PAC, which is dedicated to electing Republicans to Congress and is closely linked to Ryan.
The commercial has produced a much-longer response from the Cisneros campaign.
Despite the Cisneros counter punch, damage from Fazli allegations may have extended beyond fodder for the opposition. He was the only Orange County non-incumbent Democrat who failed to make “President Obama’s First Wave of 2018 Midterm Endorsements” that the ex-Commander in Chief tweeted on Aug. 1
This is curious because Cisneros served on Obama’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he and his wife Jacki are on the advisory board for Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher and Better Make Room education initiatives.
Jack Pandol, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman, claims the Obama endorsement “omission speaks volumes about Gil’s character and the campaign he’s running. Gil Cisneros is a flawed candidate whose baggage is dragging down his entire candidacy.” (Hat tip to The Washington Free Beacon.)
The Cisneros campaign has been silent about the perceived Obama snub, while a spokesman for the former president reassures that he will make more endorsements in the fall.
Meanwhile, we’re all still waiting for the CLF Super PAC ad chastising Donald Trump for so, so many more sexual harassment allegations.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.